Background Probability

The Agnostic Popular Front has moved to its new home at Skeptic Ink, and will henceforth be known as Background Probability. Despite the relocation and rebranding, we will continue to spew the same low-fidelity high-quality bullshit that you've come to expect.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cause the Bible tells me so...

At the debate last night a nice young fellow whom I've met on occasion claimed that naturalism is false because the Bible is true, and that he knows this because the Bible tells him so in 2 Timothy 3:16. Okay, supposing that Paul was inspired by God to relate the divine truth that "all scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" this naturally raises the question of what exactly Paul meant by "all scripture" when he wrote it.

One might reasonably suppose that Paul meant just what any other first-century Pharisee would have meant, the Scriptures were those found in the TANAKH, and perhaps bits of the deuterocanonical writings (Tobit, Judith, Baruch, etc.) as well. This seems like a perfectly acceptable interpretation to me, but it fails to cover the Christian Scriptures, most notably the epistles of Paul.

Another view would be that Paul was prophesying about a canon yet to come, a collection of scriptures which would eventually become the accepted standard throughout the true church. If so, when and where exactly did this collection come into being as a distinct collection of books? Moreover, how long did Christians have to muddle through without a full set of authoritative writings, unadulterated by heretical apocrypha?

Perhaps the Council of Laodicea settled the matter, but it was only a relatively local synod and I doubt Christian apologists would care to argue for the inclusion of the Book of Baruch along with the exclusion of the Apocalypse of John. Perhaps the Council of Trent settled the matter, but I doubt that anyone outside of the Roman tradition really cares to defend that position.

The question remains: where, when, and how was the intended meaning of "all scripture" written in 2 Timothy 3:16 revealed, and to whom? Did Paul know it? Marcion? Origen? Athanasius? Luther? Calvin? Bueller?

5 comments:

Rhology said...

OK, first of all, I didn't claim naturalism is false b/c the Bible is true. It's false given its own internal inconsistencies.
The question "How do you know naturalism is false?" and "Why is naturalism false?" are 2 very different questions. I don't remember the convo all that well, but I do seem to recall I might've said sthg along the lines of "B/c God exists" or "B/c the Bible is true", but it was b/c you asked me "How do you know God exists?" or sthg similar. I'm just saying - we have to be careful with the specificity of our questions.

You said:
Paul meant just what any other first-century Pharisee would have meant

But Paul wasn't just any other 1st-cent Pharisee. He was receiving direct prophetic revelation from God.
For any other Pharisee to claim such would be blasphemous - just look at the way they treated Jesus, constantly accusing Him of blasphemy when He'd claim divine authority.


the Scriptures were those found in the TANAKH, and perhaps bits of the deuterocanonical writings (Tobit, Judith, Baruch, etc.) as well.

No, just the former. Just the Old Testament.
There's a reason why the deuterocanonical books are called DEUTEROcanonical. Deutero means "2nd".


Another view would be that Paul was prophesying about a canon yet to come

Part of which he was writing, and realised it.


If so, when and where exactly did this collection come into being as a distinct collection of books?

I told you that the other night. It came into being when God inspired the books.
It's a diff question than "when did the people of God come to a full recognition of these books?" since God didn't also inspire a golden table of contents.


Moreover, how long did Christians have to muddle through without a full set of authoritative writings, unadulterated by heretical apocrypha?

What the church lacked in full canon, God made up for in His guidance, subtly, gradually. Plus, for the first 50+ years, you'd have eyewitnesses and disciples of Christ Himself kicking around, then for 50 yrs after that the students of the apostles.


the Council of Laodicea settled the matter

It's generally recognised that the canon was first defined at local councils of Hippo and Carthage.
But that doesn't concern me a ton.


I doubt Christian apologists would care to argue for the inclusion of the Book of Baruch along with the exclusion of the Apocalypse of John.

True, and you won't see us lending ultimate authority to these councils either.
Baruch is an excusable mistake anyway, as it was an addition onto an undoubtedly-canonical book, Jeremiah. It took longer to realise those additions (like the additions to Daniel) weren't canonical.

The meaning of "all Scripture" is "Whatever God inspires". And we trust an all-powerful, merciful, communicative God to make His revelation known to those to whom He wants to make it known, bottom line. This is well-grounded faith, b/c it is w/o question that this God exists, and that naturalism is false, so there's no need to import these naturalistic presuppositions into the consideration.

Peace,
Rhology

agnostiChicagOkie said...

I didn't claim naturalism is false b/c the Bible is true.

This is certainly not how I recall the conversation, but I see no point in arguing about it. It was downright raucous in there and I may well have missed something you said.

It's false given its own internal inconsistencies.

I assume that you must mean something like this:

- If naturalism is true, then proposition X must be true.
- If naturalism is true, then proposition Y must be true.
- However, if X is true then Y is false.

I cannot think of good candidates for X and Y offhand, but I've had a bit of fine plum wine and a bellyfull of sushi so I'm a bit addled at the moment. Perhaps you refer to C.S. Lewis's Miracles, Ch 2?

Part of which he was writing, and realised it.

How exactly do you come by that information? Assuming that Paul did know which of his letters were divinely inspired, did he ever write down anything to indicate (a) that he really knew and (b) which of his numerous letters fit the bill?

God didn't also inspire a golden table of contents.

Yet you claim that you actually have a complete list of all the inspired books. It would seem that in order for you to have this crucial bit of information, it must have been divinely revealed to someone, somewhere, somehow. We may safely assume (I think) that it was not revealed to Martin Luther nor any Pope.

The meaning of "all Scripture" is "Whatever God inspires".

So when Paul wrote "All Scripture is inspired by God..." he really meant "Whatever God inspires is inspired by God..." This seems to me a bit viciously circular, not to mention utterly useless apart from a complete list of inspired works.

Rhology said...

howdy,

I just looked up "tergiversant". It's pronounced with a "j" sound. Very cool. Me like.


This is certainly not how I recall the conversation, but I see no point in arguing about it

Yah, and as I said I don't recall it with alot of clarity either, so... I concede that I have no idea.

Anyway, here are a few points wrt what I mean about naturalism's internal inconsistencies.
-Plantinga's EAAN
-You can't provide any evidence for naturalism, all the while claiming you require evidence to believe anything.
-If naturalism is true, there is no reason whatsoever to think that naturalism is true. There is no reason not to self-deceive about anything and everything. There is no overarching moral reason not to kill all babies born to atheists, to believe in Christianity, to give all one's money to the KKK, to be Ma Theresa, to be a Christian, not to be a Christian, to be a naturalist.
-If naturalism is true, the thought "naturalism is true" is a chemical reaction in the brain, much like the shaking up of a Dr Pepper can. What reason do I have to believe the fizzing of my brain over the fizzing of a soda pop can? Or another's brain fizz?

All that to say, naturalism is not a viable alternative, and besides that, external critiques aren't really all that fair or helpful. So this question must be approached from Christian presuppositions.
Don't like it? Maybe you should get a better worldview, one that can acct for reason and intelligibility. Then you can critique like that.

MMMmmmm, sushi. And I'm not well-read at all in CS Lewis. Read Mere Christianity and a coupla Narnias and I think that's it.



How exactly do you come by that information?

His constant ordering around of the churches of God. His directions to pastors, though pastors are the highest "authority" in the local church.
The letter of 2 Corinthians.
Galatians 1:8-10.
Galatians 2.
1 Cor 7- the way that he differentiates his "advice" from other commands he's been giving. "I, not the Lord", etc.
That's not to say, however, that everythg the man ever wrote was inspired. But as an apostle of the Lord Jesus, he knew that he had a very high authority, by virtue of his spiritual gift and his office, to dispense prophetic and authoritative teaching.
And no, he wrote nothing AFAIK to say which of the letters were the inspired ones. God chose not to do it that way.



you claim that you actually have a complete list of all the inspired books.

Yes, b/c I trust God to have provided that to the church, b/c He's concerned that He be known by the church.
And He gave a lot of evidence to distinguish.


it must have been divinely revealed to someone, somewhere

As I've said a few times before, He revealed it to the church at large.


We may safely assume (I think) that it was not revealed to Martin Luther

You may refer to Luther's much-ballyhooed "removal" of James from the canon.
These articles might help you understand better. Article 1 Article 2 Article 3


So when Paul wrote "All Scripture is inspired by God..." he really meant "Whatever God inspires is inspired by God..." This seems to me a bit viciously circular

He's not trying to prove anything, He's expressing the nature of what Scripture is. He goes on to give a list of what it's good for. And read the context - the whole point is that in these times it'll be hard to be a faithful pastor, but here is what you need to have recourse to.

See you Wed night.

Peace,
Rhology

agnostiChicagOkie said...

I asked how Paul knew that he was "prophesying about a canon yet to come" rather than merely writing pastoral letters to various Xn churches which he had visited. You answered that you can discern that Paul knew his writings were inspired becuase he was constantly "ordering around of the churches of God" and giving "directions to pastors, though pastors are the highest 'authority' in the local church." However, such behavior is precisely what one might expect if Paul considered himself "an apostle of Christ Jesus by God's will" who preached the true gospel, whether or not he thought himself to be writing words which ought later to be canonized by the various Christian churches. This view of Paul's ministry is perfectly consistent with Galatians 1-2, IMO. If you believe that Paul indicated that he himself was writing by inspiration therein, please be more specific about it.

Here is a hypothetical for you. Suppose Galatians 1:20 read as follows, "Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you I am writing the truth revealed by God to me." In that case, you'd have a much better case that Paul believed that a particular epistle was inspired by God. As it is, you've yet to show where Paul even implied that any writings outside of the Jewish canon should be considered to be Holy Writ.

Since you brought up 1 Cor 7, I should point out that those verses present a particularly sticky exegetical problem for those (like yourself) who claim that Paul actually knew he was divinely inspired in the writing of his canonical epistles. There may well be a way to integrate phrases such as "I, not the Lord" and "I have no command from the Lord" into your worldview, but on a prima facie reading Paul is straightforwardly denying that these verses were anything more than good advice from an apostle to a congregation. Would it not be rather odd to claim that you have "no command from the Lord" when you already know that the triune God is inspiring every word you put to paper?

Rhology said...

But being an apostle of Christ Jesus is precisely part of my point. that was a special office with special gifts and received divine revelation and such. Not just a pastor or an evangelist.

Anyway, it's irrelevant whether Paul thought he was writing Scr or not or whether he commended anythg else as Scr or not. What's important is whether he was indeed writing it.
"I, not the Lord" refers to Jesus Christ, incarnate. "The Lord" is a frequent Pauline catchphrase for the Lord Jesus Christ, not God in general. That's the solution.